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Hybrids are BOOOOOGUS - Math Challenge

So I got into a slight argument with a math challenged hybrid owner today, The argument was due to the fact that I observed that the payback on owning a hybrid is in the smugness the driver gets to exude since the cost of purchasing and fueling one would not provide a reasonable rate of return in the lifetime of the car.

since he was a prius owner I gave him the example of a new toyota corolla at a price of $17000 which is rated at 28/35 and a $26,000 prius which gets 51/48 and asked him how many miles, assuming that oil changes, tires ect are all the same, that the price of gas costs the same for both vehicles they would cost an equal amount in other words the Gas costs+cost of purchase would be equal.

He bluffed first with 50,000 miles then 100k when i told him he wasn’t even half right he called me a liar so I set up a chart for him and proved it. I have attached a spreadsheet if anyone wants to check but here are the figures. Now these figures assume $4 gas, if the price of gas goes down, the payback grows and grows. 1¢ less is 600+ miles farther to breakeven. Similarly, since i doubt the prius will get exactly 51 mpg, 1/10th of a gallon less in mpg on the prius is 1000 miles farther to breakeven.

Toyota Corolla Toyota Prius Miles to equal
Base price 17000 26000 210375
MPG (best) 33 51
Cost of Gas 4
Total Cost for miles
Corolla 42500
Prius 42500
if prius was sold early
Miles sold at 60000
excess cost for prius 6433.15508

you can try different cars in the attachment but I am unable to find any evidence that in the normal term of ownership that you would NOT pay far more for a hybid than a normal car.

for those that might be leary of the spreadsheet and lack antivirus to check it here are the calculations

miles to equal - =((((C2-B2)/B4)*B3)/(C3-B3))*C3 | ((difference in cost of the cars / cost of gas * mpg of lower mpg car) / ( difference in mpg between the cars )) * mpg of the higher mpg vehicle.

total cost for miles
corolla - =((D2/B3)*B4)+B2 | ((miles to equal / mpg)*cost of gas)+cost of corolla
Prius - =((D2/C3)*B4)+C2 | ((miles to equal /mpg)*cost of gas) + cost of prius

Prius money on the table
=(((B10/C3)*B4)+C2)-(((B10/B3)*B4)+B2) | (((miles at time of checking/prius MPG)*cost of gas)+cost of Prius) -(((miles at time of checking/corolla mpg)*cost of gas)+cost of corolla

There are some other factors that you did not consider. You have to look at the residual value of the vehicles at the end of your time period. There are other costs as well such as insurance and maintenance. The hybrid also may need a new battery at some point, but that may not apply to the first owner unless the ownership time is long enough.


I wondered if you compared “apples to apples” in this computation, especially W/R/T trim/option levels.

I can’t speak for the Prius, but my mom bought a new Fusion hybrid, and in order to obtain a (non-hybrid) Fusion at a comparable trim level, there was much less price differential than you suggest–like $2-3K. Yes, she could have bought a “stripper” Fusion for less, but trust me: she wouldn’t have.

Also, note that the Prius is a larger car than the Corolla, and you’d probably be more accurate comparing it to a Camry.

(At any event, assuming 15K miles/year, you’re getting better than an 8% annualized return–even using your figures. Show me where you can get 8% in post-tax dollars, and I’ll invest!)

Sleepy you need a Math lesson yourself.

First off you’re comparing the HIGHWAY driving of the Corolla against the CITY driving of the Prius (where the Prius gets it’s BEST gas mileage because of regenerative braking)…

So lets do the MATH again…

Corolla Price - $17,000
Prius - $26,000

Price difference $9000.

If you keep the vehicle 9 years then that works out to $1000/yr.

If most of your driving is City (which it should be if you own a Prius) and you drive 20,000 miles a year.
Then the savings would be $1200/yr.

If you drive 30,000 miles a year…the saving is aprox $1900/yr.

If most of your driving is highway…then the saving is much less due to the decreased gas mileage in the Prius and the increased gas mileage in the Corolla.

Yep, no way to pay off $9000, but I look at about $3000 as the apples-to-apples difference. Breakeven in about $100k, and the added benefit of long range and reduced gas use. I consider that worth it.

Not like we do a ROR on a GPS or a stereo, so unless folks are buying barebones, no need to get all worked up over someone getting a hybrid. I just consider it the most useful option on the sticker.

Also, like it or not you'll be seeing LOTS of hybrids as carmakers struggle to meet the new higher MPG requirements.

Get used to them!

Hybrids DO work…if you have the right driving conditions and drive a certain amount of miles a year…

I talked my mother-in-law out of getting a hybrid because she only drives 8,000 miles a year…she’ NEVER pay it back.

You yourself give the reason to drive a hybrid in your original post:

"toyota corolla at a price of $17000 which is rated at 28/35 and a $26,000 prius which gets 51/48".

Hybrids use less gasoline per mile driven.

That is the entire rationale for driving one. Cost of purchase, maintenance, residual value, etc. are all ancillary issues.

People tend to cloud this issue with dollar signs, but hybrid (or electric, for that matter) really don't have anything to do with money.

"Hybrids DO work…if you have the right driving conditions and drive a certain amount of miles a year…People tend to cloud this issue with dollar signs, but hybrid (or
electric, for that matter) really don’t have anything to do with money. "

Well said. I would like to address the smugness of Prius owners I have encountered.

We live on a 1.5 mile dirt road and for years I graded the entire road satisfactorily and freely for myself and more than 2 dozen residents till a Prius owner moved in. It seems he needs special attention because the dip created by grading scrapes his car. (dirt roads need to be crowned as his tarred driveway wasn’t.) So, I give up grading their end of the road due in part to the hassle caused, loosing their residents on their half over $2400 in free grading which they now must hire out and still their end is a mess. He buys his own tractor to work the entrance to his drive so he can get his Prius in and out and help remove snow well enough in the winter to make it home. I’m not making this up.

Sure he uses his tractor for other things as do I, but the shift in labor cost to them which is related to a Prius owner who had people hassle me about his inconvenience from proper grading (I’m one project from DEP certification in erosion management), ends up costing them dearly. I just smile and wave as I drive by, much more slowly though because of all the potholes and erosion damage. I have saved lots on fuel doing just our end alone. Thank you Prius owner, I guess they do save someone gas (diesel) if not always the owner.

Another story. I’m teaching a student to dance who teases me several times during classes about my SUV vs her Prius and that I should have one for the planet’s sake…good naturedly perhaps but the smugness was apparent. Until, she missed class after spending 3 hours in ditch waiting for a tow truck because she insisted on the lesson during inclement weather thinking I guess that mother nature protected hybrids.

Gee, I was there on time in my bumbling SUV. Next time we met I asked her, good naturedly of course, if the gas consumption for that day was any better then mine, while keeping the Prius warm for three hours while waiting. No more hassles after that about my SUV,

So, even though OP’s numbers are a little suspect, “MikeinNh” has it right. Owning a hybrid is not a “no brainer” and the cost of owning one is sometimes hidden in inconvenience. And, owners have to sometimes rationalize their unforeseen added expenses while being a little too smug about it.

Sleepy, what makes you think anybody CARES about the cost breakdown?? I once sold a car because the buyer liked the radio…

Mike’s calculations make the most sense. However, one item overlooked is the effect of climate. In an area with long winters, the heater will be on most of the time, and the mileage will be greatly reduced. Same with very hot weather, the A/C will be on and it needs the engine to power it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, taxi service in Seattle, WA is the ideal Prius application. Where I live, the breakeven would be 156,000 miles, or about 20 years of driving at my present rate. There are 5 Prius taxis in town here. They don’t have very big trunls, a definite drawback for a taxi.

Agree that for most Prius owners, the math eludes them and the Eco Image works for them.

A friend of my wife, who has an “eco” husband, bought a Camry Hybrid for city and suburban driving. Their kids are grown up, and a Yaris would be the ideal car for where they live. Compared to the Yaris, the Camry Hybrid will have a 20+ year payback.

Sears is really pushing tankless water heaters here for home use. With the local price of natural gas, the payback is 22 years for a normal family of 4.

I’d be a good contender for owning a hybrid since I do a lot of short hop driving in town and to work. The only hybrid I considered was the Escape hybrid, but I decided against it because I felt I had more car for my money with my Mazda

The Chevy Cruze Eco gets 28 city and 42 highway with an average of 33 MPG with the 6 speed manual. The Prius is 51/48 (avg. 50). ICEs are getting more economical all the time, and not losing the fun of driving. I saw an article in USA Today yesterday that reviewed the Cruze Eco. Healey actually likes the car, and suggested that there is a lot or life left in ICE-only vehicles if manufacturers build them like GM does.

Sleepy, I'm not going to challenge your math. Hybrids often don't "payback" the investment of the original owner. But, buyers don't buy rationally or by the numbers. Buyers buy what they want, not necessarily what they need. Nothing new about this, it has been a part of car selling forever.

The fact remains that hybrids use less fuel in general. The more in town driving the better, but still hybrids use less fuel. Therefore hybrids are good, better for some but good none the less.

Using less fuel is good for all of us. Now if the owners of hybrids don't get a full payback on the extra money they spent, that's ok. Fact is they are using less fuel. That means less demand, and lower prices for everyone. So, anyone who wants a hybrid, go for it!

Re the "smugness" of Prius owners.

I personally know two Prius owners and neither of them bores me to death with endless Prius superiority smack talk. They just like their cars and have normal new car enthusiasm for them.

Methinks that maybe it is you who should quit trying to proslysize non-hybrid cars to every Prius owner you meet. It's like trying to tell every Harley Davidson rider you encounter how much faster your Japanese sportbike can go. They have heard it all before and they find it tiresome.

I wonder how many Toyota Priuses actually get 51 MPG? A celebrity gentleman on TV was asked about fuel economy after he stated that he owned 2 of them.

His reply was that they're economical IF they're driven economically. If not, they're just like anything else.

Judging by the ones I see around me in traffic who jackrabbit start far more than I do, my feeling is that few of them are getting the MPG claimed.

If anyone watched the Top Gear episode with the Prius and the BMW driven on the track in an a ggressive manner, the BMW got approx. 2 MPG better mileage in spite of having a 400 HP V-8. Torque does account for a lot.

I can believe those figures too. The latest check on my Lincoln (300 HP V-8) with a roughly 80/20 mix of highway/city driving shows 27.7 MPG and pure city driving produces a steady 19. Not shabby for 2 tons of performance sled.

BLE, we really don’t know what goes on in conversation between people and should take at face value accounts made by people who contribute. You may know a couple of Prius owners who aren’t smug about their choice, I know a couple who are. Do you own a large SUV ? That would in part dictate peoples attitude toward you. I was criticized occasionally at work for my choice of vehicles, until they saw where I lived. Smugness comes in all forms, most from ignorance.

I feel the right choice in vehicles is determined by their needs. My account of the smugness is of one owner who insists on owning one at the inconvenience and contradicting of it’s intended use. That doesn’t bother me…just don’t expect me to share in his enthusiasm or extended work commitment to that choice. My accounts have to do with actions, not conversation.

(some) People used to laugh at me for owning a 4X4, when I rarely go off road (I do like to, though), and when I tell them it’s for my boat, they laughed more…until they saw my launch was surrounded mostly my loose sand and the ramp was rather covered in moss. They stopped when I got stuck (the boat, actually, not the truck), and when I used the 4X4 was able to pull it out. They were much happier to enjoy the boat after realizing I could actually launch and recover it.

******I wonder how many Toyota Priuses actually get 51 MPG? A celebrity gentleman on TV was asked about fuel economy after he stated that he owned 2 of them.

His reply was that they're economical IF they're driven economically. If not, they're just like anything else.

Judging by the ones I see around me in traffic who jackrabbit start far more than I do, my feeling is that few of them are getting the MPG claimed.******

I routinely get 42-45 mpg mixed highway/light city traffic driving in a non hybrid Yaris mostly by driving as if the car had no brakes.

Parodoxically, I have gotten some of my best gas mileage ever by using the throttle as an on/off switch instead of a rheostat. This totally contradicts the old 'no jack rabbit starts' rule. Instead of the engine pushing the car continuously, it gives it an occasional kick between coasting, sort of like those old kick scooter toys.